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St. Joseph establishes rules for shared-use electric scooters

St. Joseph City Council approved an ordinance Monday evening that establishes rules and regulations governing the operation of shared-use electric scooters within the city.

Posted: Jun 15, 2021 1:49 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) St. Joseph City Council approved an ordinance Monday evening that establishes rules and regulations governing the operation of shared-use electric scooters within the city.

The legislation added a section to the city’s codified ordinances that is related to shared-use electric scooters as well as what providers of those services must do in order to operate in St. Joseph.

Clint Thompson, the director of the St. Joseph Community Development Department, said the city was approached by California-based company Bird a few months ago.

“It’s encouraging to know that St. Joseph is on the map of communities that outside businesses are looking to expand into the market area so that’s an attractive perspective from the city standpoint of trying to provide the types of amenities or opportunities that exist in communities that people have visited,” he said.

City staff says the ride-share company approved the city because it was interested in bringing its app-based, stand-up electric scooter services to St. Joseph.

“The company had reached out because it was looking for places to expand and wanted to know what was needed to operate in St. Joseph,” Thompson said.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, the city had no regulations, permit, or licensing requirements for a business like Bird to set up business in town.

“When Bird approached the City of St. Joseph, the representatives of the Corporation that owns Bird, we needed to make a couple of ordinance changes to make it possible for them to be here and we are excited to have them aboard,” said councilman Brian Myers. “Anytime we have an outside company wanting to invest in the community, it's something the council should heavily consider especially if we have to tweak some ordinances.”

The ordinance only paves the way for a company like Bird to operate its business in downtown St. Joseph. It is not a contract or agreement with Bird, or any scooter company, to set up its business in town.

A majority of St. Joseph City Council members approved an ordinance during their most recent public meeting Monday. The lone dissenting vote was from councilman Russell Moore who voted no and argued electric scooters would cause issues.

According to Bird’s company website, it operates in more than 100 cities worldwide and has been looking to expand in the state. Other cities have seen the business from electric scooter providers in recent years including St. Louis and Kansas City.

There are usually designated drop-off areas in cities that offer shared scooter services. Those areas allowed a spot for riders to leave the scooters when they were done using them. Those scooters are usually activated and paid for by using a mobile phone app. The scooters cost $1 to unlock and then an additional per-minute fee, typically 32 cents per minute.

The legislation states that any business that seeks to operate a shared electric scooter program in St. Joseph would have to meet several requirements. Through that agreement, the city and the interested party would discuss and determine where in St. Joseph those scooters would be located, where and when customers are allowed to ride those scooters and the condition and maintenance of the scooters by a ride-share company.

City staff and city council members in favor of a potential ride-share-scooter company expanding to St. Joseph said they were excited by a new mode of transportation for both tourists and residents.

“It provides an alternative route of transportation that will get people in and around areas that they currently would not visit by foot but would field the opportunity to travel from downtown to the Riverfront if they are visiting St. Joseph, ” Thompson said.

Myers said he is in favor of the legislation because electric scooter companies are eco-friendly and create jobs.

“We’ve got a company that wants to invest here. They will subcontract and employ a few people and I think that’s a positive thing and not to mention that it leaves less of a carbon footprint. The more people who use bicycles the more people who use scooters. It’s better for the environment. It’s better for the traffic flow,” he said.

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